7 Ways to Tell the Difference between a Moody Teen and Teen Depression

 

moody teen, depressed teen

Never try to self-diagnose teen depression. If you recognized some of the signs, seek out a professional specializing in teen therapy

The Battlefield Houston arcade and laser tag facility has always been a favorite of your teenager. But today, their half-hearted participation and utter lack of enjoyment catch your attention. It seems lately you have seen them in this mode more and more often.

Are they just being a typical moody teen, or do you have more to worry about? How can you tell?

How to Tell the Difference Between a Moody Teen and Teen Depression

Let’s consider some of the signs that can help you distinguish a moody teen from a depressed teen in three main areas.

Feelings/Mood:

1. Identifying sign: Utter loss of interest and sense of hopelessness

During the teenage years, periods of feeling anxious, self-conscious, confused, frustrated, overwhelmed, apprehensive, or sad are completely normal. But these episodes come and go and usually relate to specific events in their lives. Depression lingers. It’s like a dark cloud of doom and gloom and utter hopelessness that spreads through and through until they lose interest in pretty much everything.

Thoughts:

2. Identifying sign: Suicidal thoughts and possible self-harm

Dealing with the demands of life while experiencing these major changes can certainly cause unhappiness at times. But expressing self-loathing, believing that their life has no meaning and isn’t worth living, commenting about how everyone would be better off without them, writing about death, or engaging in self-harming practices are red flags for fatalistic thinking.

Behaviors:

3. Identifying sign: Extreme Social Isolation

While teenagers have a natural need to separate so they can begin feeling more independent, social withdrawal is quite different. Even if they don’t always feel like it, your teen should still be able to enjoy time with family and friends in and outside the home. But if they don’t participate in any social activities, appear chronically disconnected, or have consistent trouble in relationships, you’re probably dealing with depression.

4. Identifying sign: Inability to function

It’s no secret that many teens like sleeping in on the weekends. It’s one thing to want to sleep in on the weekend, but it’s quite another to do so during the week and consistently be late for school, or not crawl out of bed for the whole day. In time, unhealthy sleeping patterns can cause a lack of energy, problems with memory, attention, or concentration, and even a decrease in school performance — completely interfering with their daily functioning.

5. Identifying sign: Unexplained physical problems

Many teenagers experience changes in their eating habits and appetite as part of their normal development. They may also gain or lose weight and even experience some physical discomfort due to a growth spurt. Yet, when physical problems become chronic or have no apparent physical explanation, they may be signs of depression.

6. Identifying sign: Self-medicating

Peer influence and curiosity certainly can lead your teen to try out alcohol or drugs. Teens with depression, though, often use drugs and alcohol to temporarily ease symptoms. However, that often backfires. While substance use may provide some short-term relief, it can also increase depression in the long run.

7. Identifying sign: Acting out

Of course, a teen will act out. That’s almost unavoidable. The signs to watch out for are 1) how often they have outbursts and 2) how they react when you apply consequences. Frequent aggression, lashing out, or disobeying should put you on alert. If they can calm and compose themselves when you apply consequences and can rationally discuss the matter, then you’re probably just dealing with a moody teen. But if they react in a threatening manner, become reckless, and can’t calm down, you’re most likely looking at depression.

Remember, this list is only a guide. Never try to self-diagnose teen depression. If you recognized some of the signs, seek out a professional specializing in teen therapy for a comprehensive diagnosis.

Read more by visiting our Teen Depression Counseling page.

To learn more, check out the following articles.

So The Doc Says My Teen Is Depressed. What’s Next?
Watch For These Warning Sign of Depression In Your Teen

Charisse Ferrer, MEd., LPCi
Charisse's focus is working with teens and young adults who struggle with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, indecisiveness and relationship issues in Houston, TX. Her non-judgmental and open-minded approach is invaluable to many.
Charisse Ferrer, MEd., LPCi
Charisse's focus is working with teens and young adults who struggle with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, indecisiveness and relationship issues in Houston, TX. Her non-judgmental and open-minded approach is invaluable to many.

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